Stress Understanding and Helpful (Yoga) Practices
Stress has become a “normal” part of our lives, but is it normal to be stressed out as often as most of us are? The reaction of the body is the same as there would be a lion in the room, but usually it’s just us and a laptop, us and a friend, us and a partner etc. There is absolutely no need to experience the same body reaction as there would be a danger threatening our lives. However, we are often getting stressed even from little things. I find sometimes myself being stressed from not being able to fall asleep and the stress is just extending the time for me to fall asleep, then I’m more stressed from that. It might become a crazy circle, if you don’t break it.
Knowing more about body’s reaction on stress can help us to work with it, because being aware of what’s going on in the body gives us the power to do something about that. Stress response is controlled by parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system, knowing more about them helps to understand stress deeper.
Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous System: What are They?
Parasympathetic (PNS) and Sympathetic Nervous Systems (SNS) are a part of the autonomic nervous system and we can’t consciously control them, it’s involuntary. Their function is automatic, controlled by the central nervous system. When one is activated, the second one is inactive. Both are good for us, but the activation has to be reasonable. Parasympathetic nervous system is active while we are calm and relaxed. On the other hand, a sympathetic nervous system is activated mainly during intense physical activity, danger and stress.
How to remember them:
• parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) = “peace” response
• sympathetic nervous system (SNS) = “stress” response
What's Happening in the Body When One is Stressed?
Following Lists are basic understanding of what’s going on in the body during an activation of these systems.
Effects of PNS activation
Effects of SNS activation
The reason for this Lists is to know what’s happening in the body while it’s stressed (under activation of sympathetic nervous system). Stress might be good for us when we want to run away from a danger, or we need to finish a task more efficiently. The problem begins when we are stressed too long because the body can’t concentrate on healing, renewing cells and getting the nutrients from the food we ate.
Once I heard a beautiful metaphor about stress: “It’s like holding a glass of water. Easy, right? But try to hold the glass of water for an hour or more. It’s not that easy anymore. Like stress, it’s ok for a little while, but not long-term.” Stress can be useful for a certain period of time (usually a short period of time) but being under stress for a longer period of time is not physically, mentally nor emotionally healthy.
Balance is needed, as always. ♥
How Can I Support Activation of PNS to be More in Peace?
The first step is to realize that you are in a stress response. It is already a step to make the situation better. Awareness brings new possibilities. Once you know what’s happening, you can do something about that.
There are few practices which activates the peace response, help us to relax and start the process of regeneration in body.
Relaxation Yoga Poses
There are many yoga poses which help to calm down the nervous system. I would like to share with you two of them today. Child’s Pose and Legs up the Wall Pose. The first pose, Child’s Pose is famous for calming down, just enter the pose, feel the support of the mat and concentrate on the breath, coming in and out, feeling the body. The second pose, Legs up the Wall feels so gooood! It calms the nervous system very well, also helps with insomnia and digestions, etc.
Breath Awareness and Abdominal Breath
Breath awareness together with abdominal breath is super calming! It works immediately. It creates such a nice shift towards relaxing state in the body. You can practice it anywhere anytime; on a train, on a bus, at work, at home, etc. Depending on the situation, you can choose to close your eyes or not. Placing a palm on the belly is helpful too, but not necessary. This practice is helpful at the moment of stressful situation/response/reaction.
Feel the air coming to the nostrils, sense the air there, notice the temperature during inhaling and exhaling. Notice how is the trunk moving with each inhale and exhale. Start to deepen the breath, expanding the abdominal area. Take a few deep breaths to the belly, be fully present. And then, let the practice go.
Even 2-3 minutes of the practice create a shift in your mood! Try it out now, so you are familiar with it when really needed.
Yoga Nidra practice is powerful! It releases a tension on physical, mental and emotional level. It’s a relaxing and meditative guided practice. It’s getting even more powerful with consistency as all practices we have in our lives. If you are very stressed, do few movements before the Yoga Nidra practice. It’s more helpful as a long-term stress release.
Get it out of yourself! Write it down, everything. Super powerful to release mental and emotional tension. It’s like a cleansing for the mind.
Sometimes I feel like all the thoughts are going in a circle repeatedly. Journaling breaks down the circle and brings a new perspective. I can usually see a solution I couldn’t see before through all the mental mess.
Just write down the thoughts flowing in the mind and continue writing till you know, you finished the process for now.
Awareness is the key. The first step to release tension is to acknowledge it and observe it.
And then, start to use either one of the recommended practices or find your own healthy way to release stress. Ideally have two practices. The first one useful at the moment of stressful situation and the second practice should be one which can be used as a long-term stress release/prevention. I believe you know what’s the best way for you to get more ease and peace to your life.
Bring a smile to your face and have a wonderful day! ❤️